Oz the Great and Powerful

Image_square_webby Susan

2013, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Rachel Weisz. Screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Sam Raimi.

Oz the Great and Powerful was better than I expected. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I were a big fan of James Franco. The CG was beautiful but at times seemed to overshadow the actors. Or maybe James Franco has a problem working with green screen. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something felt the tiniest bit “off.” It might be as simple as a subconscious comparison to the universally beloved Judy Garland classic.

Well, maybe not “universally.” I understand that fans of the original L. Frank Baum books think it stinks. According to a high school friend of mine who was familiar with the books and had never seen the movie until she was seventeen, The Wizard of Oz was “a truly horrible movie that butchered a great story.” That was decades ago and she’s still a very weird person who doesn’t like movies all that much. Now I’m having trouble recalling why we were such good friends in high school, we don’t seem to have a lot in common…

I thought the basic back story of how a flim-flam con artist from a county fair became the Wizard of Oz was quite well done. It was after he got to Oz and started meeting its weird inhabitants that felt a little slow. There were plenty of nicely done, understated references to the 1939 musical but the focus was on what I assume were characters and plot lines from the L. Frank Baum original stories.

ozgreatpowerful

Mila Kunis was fantastic, Michelle Williams was a perfect sugary-sweet Glinda, and Rachel Weisz was great. There are some nice surprises with the way they handled the origin story of the Wicked Witch; her grand entrance was truly awesome! When they finally get past the slow middle part and the Wicked Witch gets involved, the action is quite thrilling.

I suppose citizens of Emerald City can’t help it that they are basically all as dumb as a stump. Or maybe naive is a better word. But I won’t be able to watch the classic now without feeling differently about Glinda and the Wizard.

For a “prequel” to a classic movie that is still being enjoyed by new generations, it was pretty good. I’m so used to the singing and dancing in the first one that I think somehow it almost felt like something was missing in this new one. But that’s just me. I can’t see a Munchkin without wanting to hear “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

Oh, about the flying monkeys – it seems that this new production wants to correct some unfair stereotypes. Maybe not all flying monkeys are evil, ugly little buggers but the ones belonging to the Wicked Witch STILL scare the snot out of me. Go see it. You’ll like it.

Three boxes of popcornRating: Triple Serving plus a box of Milk Duds 

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Dream House

By CosmicTwin3

2011 Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts. Directed by Jim Sheridan.

Anyone who has the slightest interest in basic psychology or dream interpretation probably knows the significance of a house – the family’s home – as a symbol for something else: the “self.” Upper floors in the house represent the higher consciousness while the basement represents the basic, primal, hidden aspects of the personality, and sometimes even the darker, negative desires. In other words, the condition of the house reflects the subject’s state of mind.

Dream House opens with Daniel Craig’s character choosing to leave a lucrative, successful job in the city to move to a suburban home with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two little girls, where he will be a full-time writer. This is the house of their dreams where they spend their days painting and decorating, basking in their good fortune and the love they share.

It isn’t too long, though, before something sinister disturbs the tranquility of their idyllic existence. Strange and frightening figures lurk in the darkness outside, scaring the children as well as Mom and Dad. One night Dad is awakened by a strange noise and searches the house to find a group of teenage goths partying in the basement.

Dream House Movie Poster

In search of a reason for these happenings and protection for his family, Dad starts making inquiries and discovers that their “dream house” was the scene of a grisly murder five years before – a mother and two daughters were shot to death by their husband/father who was unable to stand trial for the murders due to his impaired mental state. He spent five years in a mental facility and has just been released. Could this be the man seen lurking in the shadows, watching the family who now occupy the house? Is he a danger to them? The one sympathetic neighbor (Naomi Watts) who talks to Daniel Craig also seems to be hiding something. Does she know something about the house or the murders that she isn’t willing to disclose?

Piecing together the puzzle of what’s going on takes Daniel Craig into some very dark corners of his own mind; the truth he discovers threatens not only his sanity but the very existence of his family. Before long the beautiful house of his dreams takes on the appearance of a deserted, dilapidated house of horrors. But how much is real – and how much is only in his mind?

Jim Sheridan has infused an otherwise run-of-the-mill suspense film with believable scenarios, relying not on shock and gore as so-called “entertainment,” choosing instead to thoroughly develop sympathetic and likable characters. Even when what you might think is the “big reveal” occurs sooner than expected, the story has you hooked and demands full attention through to the end. Daniel Craig’s excellent performance as a man driven to madness trying desperately to protect his family elevates it from a somewhat predictable thriller to an absorbing character study. A demonstration of his exceptional acting skills is provided while watching him come to the inevitable realization of the actual truth. And the one or two scenes giving us a satisfying look at those ripped abs doesn’t hurt a bit.

Two boxes of popcorn

Cosmic Twins rating: Double Serving